Chef Masa Takayama, who runs the country’s most expensive sushi restaurant, now serves what might be the city’s priciest takeout program.
Every Friday, Masa — which closed following the COVID-19 shutdown — will sell 20 boxes of sushi or sashimi, currently priced at $800 each.
Each box will feed up to four people, the restaurant group wrote in an email. For the first offering, Masa will deliver a make-your-own temaki box, which includes pre-sliced raw fish, vegetables, ginger, wasabi, soy sauce, nori, and rice. That settles out to be about $200 per person for the dinner, which diners must assemble themselves.
It makes one long for the days when a proper $800 meal came fully ready to eat.
The box is cheaper than a typical omakase at Masa, which runs $595 per person, or close to $1,500 for two after drinks and tax. Takayama runs a luxury restaurant group; this is a luxury takeout service for a wealthy clientele, of which there’s no shortage in New York. This is a good time to mention that delivery is free in Manhattan but $20 for the outer boroughs, though that’s a nominal fee at these prices.
Will Masa’s hand rolls be more expertly packaged than the $27 takeout stuff from KazuNori? Probably. But should you actually spend $800 on takeout, even if you can afford it? That’s a different question. This level of gastronomic excess feels a bit touch out of place in a country with over 22 million out of work.
There’s something unsettling about Masa’s website in this regard. A pop-up explains that the decision to close the group’s restaurants wasn’t easy, as it led to staff furloughs. “Should you be able to help,” the message reads, patrons can contribute to a staff GoFundMe, which has collected nearly $84,000 in pledges so far.
A $30,000 donation was made under the names of Ronald Lauder, the multi-billionaire son of Estée Lauder, and his wife Jo Carole Lauder. If only smaller neighborhood restaurants that fed tens of thousands more patrons every year were so lucky.
Another thing: Right behind Masa’s message about the furloughs, a video plays of Takayama drinking what appears to be whisky or sake by a fancy home fireplace, and smoking a nice cigar while he sketches. The chef, per the New York Times, paid $4.8 million for a townhouse on West 92nd Street in 2010.
There’s a lot of unpack here about the nature of wealth, conspicuous consumption, billionaire philanthropy, and the dark side of exclusivity. One at least wonders whether a restaurateur who apparently has pockets deep enough to drop millions on real estate could put some extra people to work by selling more than 20 sushi boxes per week, maybe at just a few dollars less. And he’d still be on brand, for better or for worse.